India polls: Modi in election code violation on last day of polls

India's Congress party candidate Ajay Rai is pictured wearing a lapel pin bearing his party's logo as he waits in line to vote at the Ramakant Nagar polling station in Varanasi on May 12, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
India's Congress party candidate Ajay Rai is pictured wearing a lapel pin bearing his party's logo as he waits in line to vote at the Ramakant Nagar polling station in Varanasi on May 12, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Chief Minister of the western Indian state of Gujarat and India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi gestures as he speaks during a campaign rally in Kolkata on May 7, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Chief Minister of the western Indian state of Gujarat and India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi gestures as he speaks during a campaign rally in Kolkata on May 7, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI - The front-running prime ministerial candidate in India's general elections, Mr Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party, found himself in trouble on Monday after he was accused of violating the election code of conduct which is in place until the results are out on Friday.

His rival, Congress party's Ajay Rai, is also in hot water for violating the code as voting was underway in the crucial Varanasi seat in the Uttar Pradesh state.

Mr Modi, 63, was in the eye of a storm after he released a video message on social media on Monday morning, urging voters to turn out in large numbers on the last day of voting in India's nine-stage polls. He also tweeted the link to his message, reaching out to his nearly 4 million followers.

Mr Rai, 41, courted controversy for being clad in a kurta with the party symbol (a hand) pinned on it when he cast his vote on Monday in Varanasi. A police report has been filed against him.

Campaigning ended last Saturday for the 41 parliamentary constituencies, including Varanasi, which went to vote on Monday.

Complaining against Mr Modi's seven-minute video, the Congress party on Monday said that it was a clear violation of the model code of conduct and urged the Election Commission to take action.

"How can the channels show Modi's speech today in violation of the code of conduct? Election Commission should take cognisance immediately," Congress spokesman Ajay Maken was quoted as saying by Indian media.

In the video, Mr Modi, clad in a blue tunic and saffron shawl, mentions Varanasi more than once, saying: "People from Varanasi should vote in huge numbers for sustaining democracy. We have to contribute to India's destiny".

Earlier, on April 30, the Election Commission had filed a report against Mr Modi for breaching election laws by displaying his party symbol - a lotus - and for making a political speech to his supporters after he cast his vote in Gandhinagar in Gujarat state of which he is the chief minister.

The Election Commission has said Mr Modi faces two-year jail if he is found guilty of flashing the lotus and making speech on April 30.

On Monday, Mr Modi's name was also linked to the possible disqualification of the BJP's Amethi candidate Smriti Irani for possibly exceeding expenditure limits for a candidate set by the election commission.

According to a report in The Economic Times, a probe is on to determine if Mr Modi's May 5 rally in support of Ms Irani, in the high-profile Uttar Pradesh seat held by Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, had violated the limit of Rs 7 million per candidate (S$146,000), a top election official told the paper on the condition of anonimity.

Mr Gandhi, himself was given a clean chit last week after reports surfaced of him visiting an election booth and examining an electronic voting machine in Amethi on May 7, the day it went to polls.

The Congress says Mr Modi is "a serial offender" and had earlier objected to the release of the BJP manifesto on April 7, which was the first day of India's mammoth month-long polls.